Herd will use break to improve
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's Thundering Herd has a 10-day break until it plays another men's basketball game.
That might be enough time to get over the 82-54 humbling Marshall took Saturday at the hands of the defending NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Head coach Tom Herrion suffered his worst defeat in three Marshall seasons.
It was the Marshall program's widest margin of defeat since since December 2009 when 10th-ranked North Carolina, also a defending national champion, walloped the Herd, 98-61.
The nationally televised game on ESPN2 was also witnessed by 24,271 mostly Kentucky blue-clad spectators, the most to ever attend a Marshall contest.
"It was a great experience to come in here and play in Rupp Arena," Marshall sophomore guard Chris Martin said. "However, it was an embarrassment to come in here and get beat by 30."
Marshall players scattered after the game for Christmas break with some able to go home while some others stayed in town. Herrion said the players who stayed around will be looked after by the coaches. Practice resumes Thursday night, and with no time restraints while school is out Herrion said there will be plenty of work done.
The next game is a Jan. 2 home date with Delaware State followed by a Jan. 5 visit to the Ohio Bobcats and the Conference USA opener Jan. 9 at home against Tulsa.
"Obviously a lousy way for us to go into the break, but we will come out of it and bounce back," Herrion said.
Nobody expected Marshall to be 7-6 at this point, and forward Dennis Tinnon said he'll spend the holiday in the gym working to get better and hoping his teammates do the same.
Forward Elijah Pittman also said he can't take a break.
"I'm in Huntington," Pittman said. "I'm going to be in the gym. I'm going to be running. We have to get in the gym and put in work."
Missed scoring chances in a 29.5 percent field goal shooting performance and 17 turnovers that resulted in 26 points for Kentucky (8-3) hurt Marshall badly.
Herrion said he needs to re-evaluate what the team is doing on offense.
"We struggled to make layups, free throws and open jump shots," he said. "We're killing ourselves."
D.D. Scarver's 3-point field goal and Pittman's dunk put Marshall ahead, 20-18, with 11:43 remaining in the first half. Marshall didn't reach 22 points until there was 5:22 left in the half. Kentucky finished the period on a 15-4 run to take the lead, 33-24.
Pittman got Marshall going in the second half with a jump shot for a basket and Tinnon made a 3-point shot before another Pittman dunk put the Herd within 33-31 with 19:01 left in the game.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari called a timeout to regroup his team, and it worked.
Marshall committed three straight turnovers to ignite a 26-5 rally by the Wildcats, who eventually stretched their lead to 31 points.
"In the second half we wanted to come out with a lot of energy knowing that we were down," Martin said. "We knew we had to pick it up in order to win. We came out in the second half and hit some big shots and got the lead down to four or two points.
"Then we started turning the ball over repeatedly. Every time we turned the ball over they were going the other way and scoring. There is no defense to stop that. Wide-open layups are just easy points for them."
Marshall had good scoring from Pittman (20) and Tinnon (14) and center Nigel Spikes collected 16 rebounds, but Kentucky dominated just about every statistical category.
Kentucky held Marshall to its lowest field goal percentage of the season, outrebounded Marshall by plus-5 with 17 offensive rebounds and blocked seven Herd shots. The Wildcats outscored the Herd, 52-20, from in the lane and made 21 of 27 free throws while the visiting team made 14 of 26.
Ryan Harrow (23), Archie Goodwin (18) and Nerlens Noel (11) were UK's top scorers. Noel also had 10 rebounds.